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PFT's Week Two picks

[Editor’s note:  Each week, Rosenthal and I will go head to head,
picking the winner of each game.  The guy who does worse each week gets
to be the one to copy and paste together the text the next week.  Last week, we tied.  The NBC Competition Committee decided that I should have to copy and paste it all together again.  And so I’ll take the high road and accept the ruling.  In three days, after everyone applauds me for taking the high road, I’ll bitch about it on the radio.]

[UPDATE:  As it turns out, we didn’t tie.  Rosenthal won.  And I should have kept my damn mouth shut when I realized that he’d counted his victories incorrectly.]

Bills at Packers

Florio’s take:  In Week Two of the 2009 season, the Packers hosted an AFC team, and the AFC team stole a win.  In Win Two of the 2010 season, another AFC team comes to town.  But there’s a big difference between last year’s Bengals and this year’s Bills.  Even with Packers running back Ryan Grant done for the year, Green Bay has too much talent — and the Bills don’t have nearly enough.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 42, Bills 19.

Rosenthal’s take: This reminds me of the blowout specials Florio used to get to pick last year when we split the workload.  You could try to make a case for the Bills, but you’d be trying too hard.  Buffalo doesn’t have the receiver depth to test Green Bay’s secondary.  The Bills’ three-headed running game was oddly underused last week.  Their screens were predictable.  Holes closed on C.J. Spiller a lot faster than they did at Clemson or in the preseason.  Don’t expect daylight this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Bills 10.

Dolphins at Vikings

Florio’s take:  The Vikings’ offense and the Dolphins’ defense cancel each other out.  So this one will come down to the ability of the Minnesota defense to bottle up the Miami offense.  Given that the Bills were able to keep the attack largely in check last week, the Vikings should have no problems shutting them down.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Dolphins 12.

Rosenthal’s take: Miami’s defense was impressive in Buffalo.  Mike Nolan did a lot of fun things with Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake; they can get pressure on Brett Favre. Even short a few players, this is an improved linebacker group.  Favre also may not be ready to take advantage of a Dolphins secondary that features Benny Sappy a little too prominently.  There’s an old axiom that you shouldn’t pick a team to cover the spread unless you think they can win. 5.5 points feels like too much.  So let’s just go all the way and take the Dolphins in an upset special.  (I changed this pick at the last minute, which is the kiss of death.)  [Editor’s note:  Hey, Rosey, if you’re gonna pick the upset, just pick the upset and be done with it.]

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 23, Vikings 21.

Chiefs at Browns

Florio’s take:  With former Patriot Scott Pioli running the Chiefs and former Patriot turncoat Eric Mangini coaching the Browns, this one carries a strong undercurrent of hostility.  Then there’s the fact that Browns running back Jerome Harrison shredded the K.C. defense for 286 yards last December.  Look for the new-look Chiefs to bring their new attitude to Ohio, and to send the Browns to a loss in the second of two games that most expected Cleveland to win.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 20, Browns 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Remember all the positive energy in Kansas City on Monday night?  Imagine that, but the complete opposite happening in Cleveland if the Browns fall behind Sunday.  Jake Delhomme’s injury doesn’t hurt the Browns, though.  Seneca Wallace is different, and could force the Browns coaches to get creative with a roster that begs for creativity to make up for a lack of talent.  Eric Mangini can’t afford to lose the Belichick B-team Bowl after last week’s collapse in Tampa.  Romeo Crennel knows just how to lose in Cleveland.

Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 17, Chiefs 14.

Bears at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  The Bears lucked into a win at home and the Cowboys squandered a victory of their own on the road.  This week, the Cowboys head back to Dallas, 25 years after the Bears authored a 44-0 beatdown of the ‘Boys.  The Bears haven’t won in Big D since the year after that game — and their streak of futility will continue.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Bears 10.

Rosenthal’s take: No clue what to make of the Bears after last week.   Jay Cutler moved the ball very well, Matt Forte is revived, and the defense stuffed Detroit all day.  Yet they still needed a lucky call to save them from an opening loss at home.  The Cowboys are easier to read.  Their offensive line has problems and they know it.  The defense is great.  Will the return of two injured, older starting lineman be enough to turn things around?  It’s enough this week.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 24, Bears 20.

Cardinals at Falcons

Florio’s take:  The Cards barely beat a still-bad Rams team last week, and the Falcons gave fits to the Steelers on their home field.  Atlanta realizes that the window will close quickly if they can’t keep pace with the Saints.  Besides, Falcons are far more menacing birds.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Cardinals 20.

Rosenthal’s take: Arizona fans complaining about style points last week need to get a grip.  Kurt Warner has left the building.  This is a different Cardinals team, and they are going to have to win creatively while Derek Anderson figures things out. The guy led two impressive fourth-quarter drives last week and that will do for now.  Matt Ryan, on the other hand, has struggled to move the ball since the preseason.  I think Atlanta’s improved defense carries the day here.  Both these teams deserve to be 1-1. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 19, Cardinals 14. 

Buccaneers at Panthers

Florio’s take:  Since 2003, the Panthers have handled the Bucs on 11 of 14 occasions.  Though Tampa pulled off a minor surprise on Sunday against the Browns, the Panthers can be expected to take care of business on their own turf.  If they can’t, Carolina could be 0-5 at the bye.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Buccaneers 14.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs have a golden opportunity to go 2-0, even if Panthers starting quarterback Matt Moore plays as expected despite a concussion last week.  Raheem Morris has the Bucs defense looking improved, like they did at the end of last year.  These two similar teams fly well below the NFL radar and got against current league norms.  They want to win with running, defense, and not screwing things up too badly passing the ball.  John Fox has more practice.  And better running backs. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 20, Bucs 13.

Eagles at Lions

Florio’s take:  With Mike Vick making his first start since 2006, the question becomes whether he can play like he did against the Packers, who weren’t prepared to face him, when facing a Lions team that knows Vick will be the guy.  Lions coach Jim Schwartz never has had to defend Vick; when Schwartz served as defensive coordinator for the Titans, Schwartz’s team was the last one to play the Falcons before Vick returned from a broken leg.  Look for Schwartz to try to keep Vick in the pocket in the hopes that he’ll be forced to throw — and that he’ll force a few mistakes.  And then Kevin Kolb will get “healthy” quickly.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 20, Eagles 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The battle of the tortured fan bases.  The rest of the world learned about what it meant to be a Lions fan this week.  Week One, full of hope, they lost their young franchise quarterback and a game in the most painful way possible.  The Lions have a vertical passing attack with the weakest-armed quarterback in the league in Shaun Hill.  Eagles fans have it pretty good, but they like drama.  They talked up Kevin Kolb all offseason, then gave up on him after 30 minutes.  It’s hard to blame them after the way Michael Vick played last week.  Vick will put it to the Lions just to make this whole situation more ridiculous.

Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 27, Lions 16.

Ravens at Bengals

Florio’s take:  The Bengals somehow swept the Ravens last year.  It won’t be happening again in 2010.  Baltimore looks as good as they ever have looked, and the Bengals looked nothing like they looked a year ago.  Look for Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis to continue to drop the hammer on anyone who looks in his direction.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 23, Bengals 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bengals defense said they were confused early against the Patriots.  So were guys like Tedy Bruschi that picked Cincinnati to go to the Super Bowl.  At least the Bengals passing attack showed signs of life after the early disaster.  It may have been garbage time, but Carson Palmer couldn’t put up big stats any time last year.  Unlike the Jets, Cincinnati has the weapons to take advantage of Baltimore’s secondary.

Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 27, Ravens 23.

Steelers at Titans

Florio’s take:  Last year, these two teams kicked off a season that many assumed would end in a playoff rematch.  Neither qualified for the postseason.  This year, both look like they’re on their way to another trip to January.  It all comes down to the Steelers defense against the Titans offense, and the Steelers defense is simply too tough.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 13, Titans 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Titans were my pick to win the AFC South in the PFT Season Preview, so I’m basically going to take them at home unless they are facing the ’85 Bears.  The Steelers defense isn’t at that level, but it could wind up being the best in 2010.  Pittsburgh can neutralize Chris Johnson — they held him to 57 yards in last year’s opener.  So it will come down Vince Young versus Dennis Dixon and Young should be up for the challenge. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 14, Steelers 10.

Seahawks at Broncos

Florio’s take:  Former Broncos quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who was essentially run off when Josh McDaniels became the head coach, returns to town with a team that unexpectedly won in Week One by 25 points.  But it’s one thing to put a pasting on the 49ers at home in the season opener, it’s quite another to do it in Denver.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 24, Seahawks 17.

Rosenthal’s take: These teams that are a total mystery, especially the Seahawks.  Can Seattle play so inspired without the 12th man?  What is this team good at precisely?  It looks like Pete Carroll is going to make this defense better and more interesting.  The offense has work to do.  In Denver, I know what I’m getting from Kyle Orton and his band of merry secondary receivers.  The Broncos can beat suspect NFC West teams at home.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 28, Seahawks 21.

Rams at Raiders

Florio’s take:  The Rams looked better than expected in Week One; the Raiders looked far worse.  But Oakland is at home and the Rams are still learning how to win.  Though neither team will be embarrassed, look for the Raiders to take care of business in the Black Hole.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 17, Rams 10.

Rosenthal’s take: The optimism stops here for one of these teams. The Raiders wouldn’t be able to sell progress after a blowout loss on the road and a home loss to the Rams.  Sam Bradford has given the Rams hope for the future, but the present looks awfully bleak if they go 0-2 with a soft opening schedule.  Two Raiders, including Jason Campbell, alluded to being overconfident heading into the Titans game.  You know, because of their draft grades.  Losing 11 or more games for seven years hasn’t humbled this franchise.  Maybe losing to the Rams will. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 21, Raiders 17.

Texans at Redskins

Florio’s take:  The reunion of the Shanahans and Gary Kubiak adds intrigue to a game that suddenly has become one of the best of the weekend give the teams’ performances in Week One.  We’ll quickly find out whether Houston tailback Arian Foster rolled up all those yards because he played against a bad run defense or because the Texans have become the ultimate “pick your poison” pass/run attack.  And we’ll find out whether the Redskins’ offense can score a touchdown or two without having it handed to them.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Redskins 24.

Rosenthal’s take: Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak are road favorites coming off a huge win. This is exactly the game they usually trip over, which worries me. Also worrisome:  Every aspect of the Redskins offense except their tackle play.  (How odd is that?)  Washington just doesn’t have enough firepower to hang with Houston, who should give Arian Foster a break and only rush him 25 times this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Redskins 17.

Patriots at Jets

Florio’s take:  During an offseason of incessant Jets chirping, the Patriots have remained largely silent.  Apart from Tom Brady’s acknowledgement that he hates the Jets, the Pats have avoided the trash talk.  Instead, the Patriots have saved it for the field, and the Jets may have a hard time saving themselves as the Pats make the only kind of statement that truly matters in football.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Jets 13.

Rosenthal’s take: What goes up in the NFL usually comes down. And vice versa.  An overconfident team loses one week, gets ripped, and plays hungry the next time out.  Last year, Rex Ryan called the Jets’ Week Two game against the Patriots the team’s Super Bowl.  This one is far more important.  The Jets know they can’t go 0-2 at home to start the year. The Jets defense still looks great. The offense can find a way on the ground.  Don’t crown the Patriots yet; this will be a season-long battle.



Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Patriots 16.

Jaguars at Chargers

Florio’s take:  Most expected one of these teams to be 1-0 and the other to be 0-1; few expected that the Jaguars would be undefeated and that the Chargers would be winless.  Though it may feel like a home game for the Jaguars since the stadium will be partially empty (rim shot!), the Chargers have the horses to get back to 1-1 against a Jaguars team that overachieved against the Broncos.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 30, Jaguars 21.

Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers talked all offseason about avoiding yet another slow start to the year, and then slogged through a loss in the Kansas City rain.  Weather should be more conducive to vertical passing in San Diego this week. I don’t trust either secondary or either pass rush, even if Aaron Kampman looks like a fine pickup.  I’ll take Philip Rivers in a shootout over David Garrard every time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Jaguars 26.
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Giants at Colts

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning has started 0-1 only three times in his 13-year career.  Only once, as a rookie in 1998, has Peyton Manning begun a season at 0-2.  This time around, Peyton takes an 0-1 mark into his second career game against his kid brother.  And more importantly than not going 0-2 to Peyton will be avoiding losing to Eli.  Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 31, Giants 19.

Rosenthal’s take: Both brothers have grown up a lot since the last Manning Bowl.  Peyton won a Super Bowl and did the United Way spot on Saturday Night Live.  Eli won a Super Bowl, got significantly better after the title, and adjusted his Southern fraternity mop top.  That makes this a fair fight, especially if the Giants pass rush has truly reawakened.  Fair, but not equal.  Peyton is still the one with MVPs and Peyton doesn’t start the year 0-2.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 34, Giants 30.

Saints at 49ers

Florio’s take:  Rarely if ever has a team with high expectations imploded as quickly as the 49ers.  They open their home schedule with a visit from the Saints, who will have had the longest possible non-bye-week time to prepare for the game, playing on a Thursday and next on the following Monday, 11 days later.  After the game, Niners coach Mike Singletary will be thanking Sean Payton in the same way Singletary thanked Pete Carroll.  

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, 49ers 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Weirdly dangerous game for the Saints against an ornery 49ers team.  New Orleans fans don’t like that I questioned their run defense this week, but one game doesn’t erase all of last season and a shaky linebacker group.  Luckily, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams doesn’t have to get too creative to stop Alex Smith and the 49ers passing attack.  Load up the box, and dare Smith to beat you.  The Saints are in Payton/Brees version 5.0.  The essentially can do anything they choose with a veteran group of receivers.  The 49ers can’t get the play calls in on time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, 49ers 21.

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PFT Draft Prop No. 2: Amari Cooper’s draft position: 4.5

Amari Cooper AP

Leading up to Thursday’s NFL draft, we’ll put on our oddsmaking hats and Ace Rothstein glasses and set one proposition “bet” per day for PFT Planet to ponder. At the conclusion of the draft, we’ll see how PFT Planet did on the wagers, which are for entertainment purposes only.

Here’s the second in our series of five draft-related props:

PFT Draft Prop No. 2: Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper’s draft position in Round One: 4.5.

Cooper is certain to be one of the top receivers taken on Thursday. Though quite unlikely to be the No. 1 overall pick, Cooper could seemingly appeal to a variety of other clubs selecting early, including Tennessee at No. 2 or Oakland at No. 4. In fact, Rotoworld draft expert Josh Norris has the Raiders taking Cooper in his latest mock.

However, Cooper could also fit with teams after Oakland in the draft order, with Washington (No. 5), the Jets (No. 6) and Bears (No. 7) all logical landing spots.

So where does Amari Cooper land in Round One? The poll is open, as are the comments.

Previous draft props

PFT Draft Prop No. 1: Over-Under on first-round RBs: 2.5

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Kluwe says Peterson hasn’t handled his situation well

Kluwe Getty Images

One of Adrian Peterson’s always-outspoken former teammates says that Peterson needs to do a better job of handling his personal issues and his pending return to the NFL.

Chris Kluwe, the former Vikings punter who played with Peterson for six seasons, believes that Peterson should show public remorse for abusing his son.

“Obviously, AP can still play, but I think he needs to show that he understands he did something wrong and that he wants to work to change that, which I don’t know that he’s really shown yet,” Kluwe told the Pioneer Press.

One thing that Kluwe and Peterson have in common is that they’ve both clashed with the Vikings’ front office. But Kluwe seems to think Peterson is the one who bears most of the blame for his ongoing dispute with the Vikings.

“[Peterson] also feels that he’s been treated kind of unfairly, which I can see from a player’s perspective,” Kluwe said. “You think that the organization has your back. You think that these people have your back and then you get hung out to dry. I think there’s blame to go around on both sides, but AP hasn’t handled it particularly well. He’s probably valid in thinking he didn’t get some of the support that he thought he was going to get, but he’s the one who made the mistakes and he’s the one who needs to own up to it.”

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Colts take pride in scouring globe for unconventional players

Ryan Grigson AP

Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson loves to find unconventional players , or at least players with unconventional backgrounds.

So it wasn’t much of a surprise last week when he worked out a 380-pound Australian shot-putter.

It’s kind of the norm for a G.M. who has signed four CFL players, two former college basketball players and a Kenyan rugby player as he looks to bolster a roster headed by the best young quarterback in the game.

If you have elite athletic traits, you can do this,” Grigson told Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. “This isn’t one of those specialized sports, like golf. If you have a level of toughness and you can move and you have instincts, if you have those at an elite level, you’re going to get a chance.”

Of course, the pursuit of bottom-of-the-roster talent is fine, as the presence of Andrew Luck gives them a little latitude. And there are other G.M.s who like to give chances to athletes who happen to not be football players, such as Trent Baalke’s attempted development of English discus thrower Lawrence Okoye.

But Grigson takes pride in searching the globe for talent, and they even have a scout dedicated to the strange and unusual (special projects scout Jon Shaw).

Finding a diamond in the rough is the ultimate prize — any scout can point to Luck and say “That guy is good at football.”

Then again, Grigson has turned his last two first-round picks into running back Trent Richardson and outside linebacker Bjoern Werner, neither of whom were active for the Colts’ latest playoff loss.

So as fun as finding unconventional players might be, a better effort toward the conventional ones might help the Colts more.

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Mike Tannenbaum: No decisions on Ryan Tannehill option for 2016

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

We’re a week away from the deadline for teams to decide whether or not to exercise their options for the fifth year of their 2012 first-round pick’s contracts and several teams are still weighing their decisions.

The Dolphins say that they are one of them. The team has shown plenty of faith in quarterback Ryan Tannehill and has been engaged in conversations with him about a long-term agreement, which would seem to make the call to pick up his option an easy one. At a press conference on Friday, though, executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said that no call has been made about the $16 million option for 2016.

“Look, Ryan is here, we’re excited he is here, we haven’t made any decisions yet,” Tannenbaum said. “We know when the deadline is and we’ll make those decisions when we get there. Obviously one of the other axioms you’d like to use this time of year is the tape sets the floor and the character sets the ceiling, and for all of the resources Mr. Ross gives us to put into a player, you want to make sure that player is taking all of those resources and Ryan is just a great example of that.”

There’s not much downside to picking up the option on Tannehill’s contract. It’s guaranteed against injury only, so the Dolphins could change course if things go south on the field next season, and does nothing to limit their ability to reach a longer deal with the quarterback. Given those conditions (and barring an extension in the next few days), it would be a surprise if May 3 passes without the option being exercised.

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Chris Long could be heading into his last year in St. Louis

St. Louis Rams v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

No NFL team has invested more resources in its defensive line than the Rams. But the centerpiece of that defensive line may be heading into his last season in St. Louis.

Chris Long, the Rams’ 2008 first-round draft pick who has developed into a very good defensive end, could be looking at a make-or-break year in 2015. Nick Wagoner of ESPN writes that unless Long has a big year in 2015, the Rams may decide he’s not worth the money and release him in 2016.

The money the Rams have invested in Long is substantial: Last year he counted $12.9 million against their cap despite playing in just six games and finishing the season with a grand total of one sack. This year his cap hit is $12.5 million, and next year his cap hit is $14.25 million. If Long isn’t playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2016, that $14.25 million would be hard to justify in 2016.

The Rams have an expensive defensive end on the other side of the line in Robert Quinn, and they’ve spent first-round picks on defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. On top of that, last month they signed defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Add it all up, and the Rams have invested a lot in the defensive line.

Eventually, teams that invest that much in one position group find that they have to allocate some of their resources elsewhere. Next year may be the time that the Rams decide they need to spend on other positions, and move on from Long.

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NFL clears Ray McDonald in domestic violence case

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy were both accused of domestic violence last year. Both got the same results from the legal system, ultimately having their charges dropped. But the NFL’s brand of justice has been radically different.

Hardy was banished with pay by the Panthers for 15 games last season and has now been suspended an additional 10 games without pay this season. But McDonald was allowed to play for the 49ers amid the domestic violence accusation last year and will not be suspended at all this year.

The NFL has confirmed that it investigated McDonald, who is now with the Bears, and cleared him of any violation of the personal-conduct policy.

“We have completed that [domestic-violence] investigation,” NFL general counsel Jeff Pash told the Associated Press Sports Editors. ‘‘[Special counsel for investigations] Lisa [Friel] and her team completed that investigation [and] did not establish a violation of the personal-conduct policy. We informed the player and the [NFL] Players Association.’’

However, that doesn’t mean McDonald is totally out of the woods. He is also being investigated in connection with a sexual assault. McDonald has not been charged in that case and says he will sue the woman who accused him.

‘‘Just to be clear, Ray McDonald had two issues, as you may remember — one related to a domestic-
violence incident and one related to an alleged sexual assault,’’ Friel said. ‘‘It’s the domestic-violence incident that we have finished investigating and didn’t find sufficient evidence to say that he violated the personal-conduct policy. The sexual-assault incident, that investigation is ongoing. That has not been completed, nor has the district attorney’s office in Santa Clara County completed their investigation into that matter.’’

The second accusation against McDonald led the 49ers to cut him. But as far as the the NFL is concerned, he’s not in any trouble with the personal-conduct policy. At least not yet.

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Bucs did extensive vetting of Jameis Winston

Jameis AP

If the Buccaneers don’t make Jameis Winston their latest potential franchise quarterback in four days, they’ve managed to concoct an impressive smoke screen.

The Tampa Tribune has published extensive details of the vetting of Winston by the Buccaneers, which could be viewed as a deliberate effort to address any lingering concerns about Winston’s character.

Via the Tribune, G.M. Jason Licht said the Buccaneers “spoke to upwards of 75 people” about Winston.  The Tribune has determined that those “upwards of 75 people” include “family members, friends, teammates, former high school coaches, former college coaches and an assistant state attorney.”

“[W]e all couldn’t feel more confident about the process we have gone through,” Licht said.

The process, as PFT previously has reported, included contact with assistant Tallahassee district attorney Georgia Cappleman, who spoke to the Bucs not only about Erica Kinsman (who claims Winston sexually assaulted her) but also about a second victim to whom Kinsman’s lawsuit against Winston refers.

“I advised them that there was another woman who received some counseling services from Florida State University as a result of an encounter with Mr. Winston that was of a sexual nature,” Cappleman told the Tribune.  While Cappleman hasn’t personally spoken to the second victim, Cappleman said the second victim “doesn’t even consider herself a victim.”

As to Kinsman, the Buccaneers haven’t spoken to her or to her lawyers.

“When vetting any potentially credible accusation of off-field misconduct, I’d expect NFL teams to learn both sides and not just listen to the player, agent, and coach,” Kinsman lawyer Baine Kerr told the Tribune. “Due diligence should include learning the facts from the accuser’s point of view.”

While it’s important to conduct a fair and thorough investigation, it’s a no-win proposition for the Buccaneers to communicate directly with persons having a clear bias and financial incentive against Winston.  If the team gets too close to the controversy, the team becomes a pawn in the legal chess/checkers/chicken game between Winston and Kinsman.

We can’t believe that the Buccaneers still made Winston the first overall pick despite all the information we shared with them.

Some would say that the mere existence of so many questions about Winston, from the BB gun incident to the crab-leg caper to the sexual-assault allegation to the shouting of the vulgar Internet memo to the recent change in the crab-leg explanation is enough to justify passing on Winston and selecting someone else with potentially equivalent talent but zero off-field entanglements that require investigation and explanation.  But franchise quarterbacks are hard to find in the draft, and the Buccaneers in nearly 40 years of existence never have.  As Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune said on a recent edition of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, the Buccaneers have never given a second contract to any quarterback they drafted.

That list includes, working backward, Mike Glennon, Josh Freeman, Josh Johnson, Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Simms, Joe Hamilton, Shaun King, Trent Dilfer, Craig Erickson, Mike Pawlawski, Pat O’Hara, Vinny Testaverde, Mike Shula, Blair Kiel, Steve Young, Mike Ford, Chuck Fusina, Doug Williams, Randy Hedberg, and Parnell Dickinson.

That’s 20 quarterbacks in 39 drafts.  Winston apparently will become No. 21, and the franchise seems to be ready to assume the risk that Winston could be yet another Buccaneer bust, whether due to on-field play or off-field problems.

If he is, maybe the 22nd quarterback drafted by the franchise will be the one to get a second contract.

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No talks between Eli Manning, Giants

San Francisco 49ers v New York Giants Getty Images

When 2015 began, each of the trio of first-round quarterbacks from the 2004 draft who have become NFL superstars were entering the final year of their second contracts.  One of them (Ben Roethlisberger) has gotten another big deal.  Another one (Philip Rivers) claims he doesn’t want one until 2016, if then.  The third says nothing is happening, and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by that.

Nothing has been brought up,” Manning said Sunday, via Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com.  “I haven’t made a big deal about it.”

Eli also said he won’t be insulted if he doesn’t get a new contract before the current one ends, pointing out that his brother, Peyton, has done that before.

Peyton has, twice before in Indianapolis.  But Eli got his current contract before his own rookie deal expired.  This time around, the Giants may decide to wait and see what happens in 2015.

“[The contract] is not something I’m going to argue about or make a fuss about,” Eli said Sunday.

Eli is due to earn a base salary of $17 million in 2015, with a cap number of $19.75 million.  That gives Eli plenty of leverage, since it would cost the Giants $23.7 million in 2016 under the non-exclusive franchise tag — and probably even more under the exclusive version of the tag.  Which means that the Giants would be paying plenty if Eli opts for a year-to-year arrangement, which would increase the tender by 20 percent in 2017 and 44 percent in 2018.

Given Eli’s stated desire not to leave the Giants, it’ll be very interesting to see whether New York would roll the dice with the non-exclusive tag, since that would open the door for another team willing to give up two first-round picks to make a run at Eli.

In other words, the Browns would make a run at Eli.

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Irsay “not really” surprised #DeflateGate investigation has taken so long

Irsay Getty Images

The owner of the team that sparked the #DeflateGate investigation recently talked about the absence of closure in the case.  And Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn’t seem to be concerned about the fact that more than three months have passed since G.M. Ryan Grigson complained to the league about the air pressure in the footballs used during the first half of the AFC title game against the Patriots.

“I know that they are still finishing up their investigation, and there’s really nothing new to report,” Irsay told reporters at the third annual Chuckstrong gala on Friday night.  “It could be a few days, it could be a month or more.  I really don’t know.  They’re working to be, again, comprehensive and thorough, and when [Ted] Wells gets done with it, he’ll let us all know.”

Is Irsay surprised it has taken this long to wrap up the investigation?

“You know, probably not really,” Irsay said.  “He’s a very thorough investigator, and he’s gonna do what he thinks, sort of in his vacuum, so to speak.  He’s not concerned about when he gets the results, how long it takes.  He wants to be thorough.  So I know he operates that way.  So it’s not a shock, but I think everyone has wondered exactly when he’ll come through and let us know what he’s learned.”

Some suspect that a truly thorough investigation might reveal that the Colts took additional air out of the ball that was intercepted by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson during the first half of the game.  The NFL previously has declined to comment on whether Ted Wells is exploring that angle.  Others currently believe that the NFL has turned the investigation back on itself, hoping to placate Patriots owner Robert Kraft by determining how so many leaks of information that would tend to incriminate his team made their way to the media.

Regardless, it’s been more than a month since Commissioner Roger Goodell said the investigation is “getting near the end.”  With the draft less than a week away, it’s starting to feel like the end will arrive on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

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Jags have no update on Justin Blackmon’s status

Jacksonville Jaguars Media Access Getty Images

In January, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said that he was “very optimistic” about wide receiver Justin Blackmon returning to the field for the 2015 season and that he felt good about having Blackmon return to the team after missing more than a season on an indefinite suspension for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.

We’re closing in on the end of April and the Jags have started their offseason workouts, but there’s still no word on whether Blackmon will have that ban lifted by the league. While speaking to the media last week, Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell said that the team didn’t know whether Blackmon has applied for reinstatement or much else about the receiver’s status.

“Our process hasn’t changed,” Caldwell said, via the Florida Times-Union. “Plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges and he’s going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we’re able to get some news, but if not, we weren’t planning on it, we’re just going to go.”

The Jaguars have no reason to close the door on a Blackmon return until there’s actually a return to contemplate and the lack of movement on that front suggests Caldwell’s right to devote his attention to other matters.

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Eagles still not showing real commitment to Bradford

Bradford AP

After the Eagles surprisingly traded for quarterback Sam Bradford in March, coach Chip Kelly insisted that Bradford wasn’t a stepping stone toward getting up the board to reunite with Marcus Mariota.  Since then, the Eagles have done nothing to take that possibility off the table.

As PFT reported on Wednesday, no meaningful contract talks have occurred between the Eagles and Bradford, who is due to make $12.985 million in 2015, the final year of his pre-wage-scale rookie deal.  The Eagles would like to knock down the cap number, and Bradford would like a chance to re-establish himself.  While money is a factor, security is, too; Bradford wants any new deal would to ensure that he won’t be shipped to the Browns or elsewhere, especially since a multi-year contract would make Bradford more valuable to a team that would acquire his rights for more than one season.

The absence of a true commitment to Bradford keeps the possibility of another trade in play.  Recently, PFT laid out the pieces of a three-way deal that would put Bradford in Cleveland, Mariota (and possibly Johnny Manziel) in Philly, and multiple picks in the pocket of a team that trades out of the top five.

The Eagles possibly could get there by giving up Bradford, the 20th pick in 2015, a first-round pick in 2016, and maybe another pick or two.  Whether that amounts to mortgaging the future isn’t known.

That said, why is a mortgage a bad thing?  For most, it’s the only way to buy a house.  For the Eagles, a mortgage for Mariota could not only buy a house but also eventually put a Lombardi Trophy in the case.

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Dennis Pitta “feeling good,” hopeful about playing in 2015

Dennis Pitta, Manny Lawson Getty Images

Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta was one of the players in attendance as the Ravens kicked off their conditioning program last week, which is an encouraging sign about his recovery from his second serious hip injury in as many years.

Pitta has fractured and dislocated his hip both times, which has cast doubt on his ability to continue his playing career. Pitta isn’t sure whether or not he’ll be able to play, but he said Saturday that he’s “feeling good in workouts” while waiting to find out if he gets the green light to make a full return to action.

“We still have some time to be able to assess where I’m at,” Pitta said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I sure hope that I’ll be on the field next year. That’s my hope; that’s my goal. We’ll just see if we can get there.”

The Ravens have played down their need for a receiver while being more open about their shortcomings at tight end with Pitta out of the picture. There’s not likely to be any change in his status between now and Thursday’s start to the draft, which means the Ravens have to continue to plan for life without Pitta in the passing game.

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Lyerla makes pitch to get back in NFL

Lyerla Getty Images

It’s hard to call tight end Colt Lyerla a former NFL player because he never really made it to the NFL.  He nevertheless wants back in.  Or simply in.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted on Sunday morning the link to a recent item from Tyson Alger of the Oregonian regarding Lyerla’s recent pitch to the NFL via videos posted on Twitter as part of a series he calls “The Resurrection.”

“To the NFL teams out there, obviously there’s been a lot of bad decisions made in the past,” Lyerla says in the video, which also includes clips from a recent workout in which he runs various pass routes.  “But like I said the past is the past and it’s going to stay in the past.”

The Packers signed Lyerla as an undrafted free agent last year.  He was waived-injured after suffering a knee injury and then reached an injury settlement, which paid him through Week Eight.  Lyerla thereafter was arrested for DUI, which became his latest off-field incident in a string that included an arrest for cocaine possession, suggesting that the Sandy Hook shooting was a governmental conspiracy, assault charges that later were dropped, skipping classes and practices in high school, ultimately quitting the team at Oregon.

Lyerla explains in the video that the DUI charge from last September was “officially dismissed,” but he admits that he has been in the NFL’s substance-abuse program for a year and a half and hasn’t failed a drug test.  (It’s not known precisely how long he has been in the NFL’s substance-abuse program; if he’s truly been in for 18 months, he would have entered the program in October 2013, seven months before he was undrafted.)

As to the injury that ended his time with the Packers — a torn PCL and MCL in his knee — Lyerla says he opted against surgery, allowing it to instead heal on it’s own.  It apparently has; remember J.J. Watt’s recent 61-inch box jump?  Lyerla did 62 inches.

One of several talented players who weren’t drafted last year due to off-field issues, it could be even harder for Lyerla this time around, given that the NFL has shifted its attitude toward players with problems away from the field (i.e., you’ve got to be extremely talented and not just really talented to qualify for an exception) and that he’s competing with a fresh crop of players emerging from the college ranks.

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Martellus Bennett hasn’t been at Bears workouts

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The absence of running back Matt Forte from Bears voluntary workouts when they started on April 13 drew some attention, but another offensive starter’s decision to be elsewhere the last two weeks has gone relatively unnoticed.

Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com reports that tight end Martellus Bennett has not taken part in workouts with his teammates yet this offseason. There’s no word on any specific reason why Bennett has opted out of the work and no sign that there’s any discontent as he was reportedly at Halas Hall one day last week even though he wasn’t taking part in conditioning work.

Bennett is due nearly $10 million over the 2015 and 2016 seasons as part of a contract he signed before the 2013 season. Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, Martellus’s brother, has also been absent from this phase of offseason work.

Because they changed coaches, the Bears have a three-day minicamp for veterans in Chicago this week. The work is also voluntary with the only mandatory work before training camp coming during the June minicamp.

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Joe Flacco on wide receivers: I think we’re good with what we have

Joe Flacco AP

At different points this offseason, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta have both downplayed the team’s need to draft a wide receiver after Torrey Smith signed with the 49ers as a free agent.

Quarterback Joe Flacco joined the chorus on Saturday. Flacco admitted that the team lost something when Smith departed as a free agent, but said it’s not something that needs to be addressed early in the draft, late in the draft or anywhere in between.

“Obviously, without Torrey now, the one thing we probably don’t have as much of is that speed, is that one guy who can stretch the field,” Flacco said, via ESPN.com. “But I’m not going to say we need it. I think we got really good guys and I think we’re good with who we have.”

The Ravens are pushing their happiness with their current receiving group hard, but it’s hard to believe they’ll avoid the position next week with 10 picks and four returning players from last year.

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